No one will blame you if the first thing you do upon entering your room at the new Hotel X Toronto is run to the window and pull out your camera. In fact, it’s encouraged. Jaw-dropping views are a core part of the identity of this urban resort, located just west of downtown at Exhibition Place, and everything about the property is designed to show them off.
On a recent stay, I was given a 23rd-floor suite with an eastern exposure. Although there’s plenty to explore at Hotel X, including five food and beverage outlets (with two more on the way before the end of the year), a rooftop pool, a gallery of works by Canadian fine art photographer Neil Dankoff, a mammoth athletics centre, and a three-level rooftop bar, I found it difficult to tear myself away from the panorama of city skyline and Lake Ontario.
“We like to say Hotel X Toronto is about two things: it’s about you, and it’s about the views,” says Celso Thompson, director of sales and marketing. “We are so blessed to be able to enjoy such a fantastic location; we want to show it to you, from every single guest room and every single space we created.”
The hotel is the realization of a vision for Exhibition Place that dates back 20 years, when the city decided something was needed to attract more events and visitors to the newly-opened Direct Energy Centre (now called the Enercare Centre) and later, the Beanfield Centre. In 2004, the city began accepting bids for a hotel. The prospect of developing a brand-new project on more than three hectares of prime downtown real estate appealed to Henry Kallan, president and owner of Library Hotel Collection, which also has properties in New York, Budapest and Prague.
“They gave us a parking lot, we built paradise,” jokes Thompson.
That parking lot also happened to be one of the oldest heritage sites in Toronto; a pre-construction archaeological dig turned up the foundations of former barracks for New Fort York, built in 1840 to replace the original. Those limestone walls have been preserved under a glass floor in Hotel X’s New Fort Hall, a combination museum and event space. And next spring, the former officer’s mess — the only standing remnant of the Stanley Barracks, as the site was renamed in 1893 — will open to the public as a nanobrewery on the hotel grounds.
In spite of everything it has going on, thoughtful design touches help the 30-storey, 404-room Hotel X to feel more like a boutique hotel than a mega-resort. Guests are encouraged to borrow books from curated shelves in the lobby and Library Lounge, and pops of royal purple and gold — a plush armchair here, a potted orchid there — imbue the common areas with a feeling of cozy opulence.
“For us, luxury is not about white gloves and chandeliers, it’s about you feeling great,” says Thompson. “It’s unpretentious, and that’s the environment we created.”
Hotel X even managed to make my 5 a.m. wake-up call feel luxurious: all it took was a good night’s sleep, a fresh cup of coffee, and the sight of the sun rising over the CN Tower.